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Portrait of Joseph Gulston and his Brother John Gulston
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Francis Cotes
English, 1754
Pastel
26 1/2 x 32 1/2 in.
99.PC.33

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In this double pastel portrait, the brothers Joseph and John Gulston appear close-up in half-length, standing before an expanse of wooded landscape. The elder brother, Joseph, age thirteen, wears a "Van Dyck" costume, a costume in the style of Anthony van Dyck's portrait paintings from the 1600s. Also in a historicizing vein, his younger brother John wears a dress, traditionally worn by both boys and girls until they reached four years of age, and holds a wicker basket full of colorful summer blossoms. Francis Cotes captured his sitters with disarming directness. Joseph bears himself gracefully and engages the viewer with his gaze, yet he still retains the fragile self-reserve typical of an older boy. His brother John, however, caught in three-quarter view, moves and smiles with the unselfconscious spontaneity of a four-year-old. The contrast between the two boys' ages, clothing, and actions indicates that the subject is more than a likeness of two children--it serves as a commentary on the passage of childhood.